About fifteen years ago, renowned Japanese master builder and zen architecture guru, Paul Discoe, purchased a plot of land in West Oakland. He named the strip of land the O2 Artisan’s Aggregate (O2AA) and envisioned it as a maker-space for sustainability-minded creators in the community. The site encompasses about 2.5 acres on the corner of Magnolia Street and West Grand Avenue, nestled in brownfield-rich area of West Oakland between various industrial metals recyclers, American Steelworks, and concrete manufacturers. O2AA’s name is inspired by the sites previous use: the industrial separation of oxygen from air during Word War II. Discoe purchased the property to house his personal design studio and prototype shop; it has since evolved to house his home garden replete with chickens and coy fish, as well as serving as a staging area for various small-scale sustainable agriculture prototypes, with the aim of scaling them up in size in the near future. The O2AA is striving to preserve the spirit of both pre- and post-industrial craftsmanship through innovative, sustainable and socially responsible processes. One of the ultimate goals of the collective is to divert as much waste from the mainstream waste management system, so that industrial “waste” materials may be upcycled into finished products and that the byproducts of that upcycling system may be used in a sustainable way. They aim to do this through on-site composting and the production of compost, bio-charcoal and feedstock for domesticated animals.
The team from CCLR went to the O2AA to meet with Aitan Mizrahi, in order to learn more about the space and understand the various sustainability initiatives that are hosted there. Aitan, who has been working as the property manager at the site in West Oakland for just over a year, is in charge of attracting tenants to the space and turning away those that apply whose mission doesn’t jive with the cause. The tenant spaces are currently populated by Ponderosa Tree Service, an urban sawmill; Perennial Farms, aquaponic producers of fish and vegetables, and Juniper Ridge, purveyors of wild-harvested fragrances and soaps. Aitan is striving to optimize the spatial distribution of the site, going so far as to create a storage shed for the milled products of the Ponderosa Tree Service, buttressed by two shipping containers. These shipping containers are occupied by two different enterprises; SO2BA occupies one container where they produce organic soba flour and Don Bugito occupies the other, where they propagate insects for animal feed and human consumption.
Aitan hopes that the O2AA space becomes a place where people from the community can bring their refuse to become both recycled and upcycled. He envisions grand plans of being the go-to spot for local composting and recycling. They are being met with resistance from the city of Oakland and they are having permitting issues with being labeled as an industrial “recycler” due to proximity to nearby recycling operations. The abundant floating garden beds on the property epitomized their goal of becoming a closed-loop system; nothing in the system is wasted as the using fish waste nutrients to fertilize the plants and the plant roots fertilize the water for the fish.
The O2AA Artisan’s Aggregate will be hosting a Spring Open House and Mini-Crafts Faire on June 17th from 2-7 PM at their site at 2311 Magnolia Street in West Oakland. The event will feature live music, blacksmiths, ceramicists, local foods and artisan wares!
To view more photos from our visit and chat with Aitan Mizrahi at the O2AA, please view our Facebook photo album here.